Susan W. Hardwick

1945 - 2015

Susan Hardwick, professor emerita at the University of Oregon and national leader in the field of geography education, passed away on November 11, 2015, at the age of 70, after a brief illness.

Susan Louise Wiley was born on May 9, 1945 in Greensburg, PA. After completing her secondary education at Slippery Rock High School in 1963 she moved to Slippery Rock University for a bachelor’s degree in Education and Social Science / Geography, graduating in 1967.

Hardwick began her teaching career in a one-room schoolhouse at Honcut Middle School in Oroville, California in 1968. This was followed by a master’s degree in Geography from California State University, Chico, with a thesis entitled “Chinese Settlement in Butte County, California: 1860-1920.”

In 1974 she moved to the Department of Earth Sciences at Cosumnes River College, a community college in Sacramento, CA, where she stayed until 1986, teaching and serving as chair of the department. During this time she also spent a year as Director of Ethnographic Research for the City of Sacramento.

Concurrently she undertook doctoral studies at the University of California, Davis. Her thesis, completed in 1986, was entitled “Ethnic Residential and Commercial Patterns in Sacramento with Special Reference to the Russian-American Experience.”

Next Hardwick returned to the Department of Geography and Planning at California State University, Chico, between 1986 and 1997 holding posts as Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and Professor. She also spent the last three years as the university’s co-coordinator of the Literacy and Learning Program.

She moved to Texas State University in San Marcos in 1997 as Professor of Geography and Associate Director of the Gilbert M. Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education. In 2000 came her final move, this time to the Department of Geography at the University of Oregon.

Hardwick’s early interests in the geographies of immigration continued throughout her career, in both research and teaching. Focusing on the North American context, she was interested in migration flows and spatial patterns, shifting identities of immigrants and refugees, and urban social landscapes. Her extensive publication record contains scores of books, book chapters and articles on the ways in which racial and ethnic differences shaped North American towns and cities. She was particularly known for her long-running work on Russian immigrants in North America.

In recent years she had also focused on Canada, particularly the migration experiences, spatial patterns and transnational identities of immigrants at the Canada-U.S. borderland. She spent several years as a Senior Research Fellow on the Metropolis Project at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University during which time she was the Principal Investigator on a number of projects. One of her most recent publications was a co-edited volume with Francophone geographer, Remy Tremblay, called Transnational Borders, Transnational Lives: Academic Mobility at the Borderland (University of Quebec Press, 2014) telling the stories of a selected group of geographers who migrated to one side to another of the Canada-US border. She left four publications in progress including work on the role of immigrants in the development of the United States, the Klu Klux Klan in Oregon, and the lives of Russian Americans in the Pacific Northwest.

Hardwick’s other major area of activity – in teaching, scholarship and activism – was geographic education. Oregon colleague Alec Murphy said, “It is hard to name any major development in geography education over the past few decades that does not in some way bear Susan’s imprint. She was a tireless and effective champion of the cause.”

Among her many accomplishments, she played a critical role in crafting the original and revised versions of the National Geography Standards and co-hosted “The Power of Place,” a hugely successful Annenberg public television series for educators. She also spearheaded the development of an online training program for teachers of AP Human Geography, and played a central role in bringing to fruition the “Road Map for the Large-Scale Improvement of K–12 Geography Education.”

She was a co-author for three widely used textbooks: My World Geography (Pearson Prentice Hall, 2011) currently being used by thousands of middle school geography and social studies students; The Geography of North America: Environment, Political Economy, and Culture (Prentice Hall, 2nd edition 2012) for college and university level regional geography courses; and Geography for Educators: Standards, Themes, and Concepts (Prentice Hall, 1996) a text that has been used by thousands of pre-service and in-service geography and social studies teachers.

University of Oregon colleague W. Andrew Marcus said, “Susan’s tireless efforts, her innovation in creating new programs and her capacity to build bridges where other people saw chasms, have given her a special place in the pantheon of scholars who have changed education.”

Hardwick’s professional service contributions were legion. Most notably, she served the National Council for Geographic Education as president and vice president of research and external relations. At different points during her career she sat on the national councils of both the Association of American Geographers and the American Geographical Society, taking the lead on many initiatives for those organizations. She was also an active member of the editorial board of the Journal of Geography for more than a decade. She was a great contributor to other professional organizations in the U.S. with a geographic remit, including the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers and the National Geographic Society.

Although she retired in 2010, Hardwick remained active in the geography department at the University of Oregon, teaching two courses each year, mentoring graduate students and future teachers, and serving as co-director of the university’s graduate summer program in geographic education.

Over the years, Hardwick’s commitment and achievements in different areas – scholarship, teaching effectiveness, service, leadership and mentoring – were widely lauded.

In recognition of her scholarship on the evolving ethnic geography of cities in the United States and Canada, she received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Ethnic Geography Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers in 2001.

She was recognized throughout her career for her teaching effectiveness. From California State University, Chico she received a series of awards: the Meritorious Professional Promise Award in 1987, the Professional Achievement Award in 1994, the Outstanding Teaching Award in 1994, and the Outstanding Professor Award in 1995. In 1995 she was selected out of more than 23,000 California faculty for the statewide Outstanding Professor Award, and in 1999 she was selected as the California State Nominee for the Carnegie Foundation’s Outstanding Professor of the United States award. From the University of Oregon she twice received the Rippey Innovative Teaching Award (2003-2005, 2008-2010).

Hardwick’s service to her various institutions was also recognized: California State University, Chico (Outstanding Faculty Member Award, 1987), Texas State University (Outstanding Faculty Service Award, 1999), and the University of Oregon (Outstanding Service to the Department Award, 2001-2002 and 2009-2010).

For her contribution to geography education, Hardwick received the California Geographical Society’s Outstanding Statewide Geographical Educator Award in 1988 and the National Council for Geographic Education’s Distinguished University Educator Award in 1994. She was further lauded for her extraordinary service and leadership in advancing geography education with the AAG’s Gilbert Grosvenor Honors for Geographic Education in 2006 and in 2013 with the George J. Miller Award for Distinguished Service, the highest award given by the National Council for Geographic Education.

Hardwick gave many years of service to the discipline as an outstanding mentor and this was recognized by the National Council for Geographic Education’s National Outstanding Mentor Award in 2008 and the AAG’s Excellence in Mentoring Award in 2014. Such were her distinguished contributions that, shortly before her death, the AAG Council decided to name the latter award after her: it is now the Susan Hardwick Excellence in Mentoring Award.

In sum, Hardwick’s contributions across academic scholarship, geography education, and professional service were remarkable. Her resume is a phenomenal record of dedication and achievement. Although she worked tirelessly in her professional life, she also found time to spend with her family, especially enjoying her grandchildren, travelled the world with her husband (North America Europe, Russia, Southeast Asia, Central and South America), wrote non-fiction, and simply enjoyed the blustery central Oregon coast where she lived.

Many grieve for the loss of such a wonderful friend and colleague. AAG Executive Director Doug Richardson, described Susan Hardwick as “universally beloved in the discipline. A very kind, caring person, open, constructive and helpful at all times.” Colleague W. Andrew Marcus said, “We will miss her terribly, but take solace in knowing that her influence lives on in so many ways.”

She leaves behind her husband and fellow geographer, Donald Holtgrieve; 3 sons, James, David and Randal; and 3 grandchildren, Paige, Austin and Annabelle.

With thanks to Alec Murphy for much of the material in this obituary